STUDIES ON THE SECOND COMING
THE MAIN IMPLICATION OF THE SECOND COMING:
So how should all this study of the second coming affect me? First, I need to be prepared for the possibility that a time of great stress and struggle may fall upon the world during my life time. It may or it may not; however, I need to be prepared for it in case it does happen during my lifetime. If it does, then I need to remain true to Jesus Christ no matter the cost, either to myself or to my family. Although this nation has been fortunate to escape religious persecution for the past 400 years, that may all change one day.
Second, I need to keep in mind that whatever else is true about the second coming, this especially is true: the second coming will be a time of great judgment not only upon non-Christians but upon Christians also. This is the focus of Matt. 24-25, the great chapters on Jesus' return in the gospels. Of the 97 verses in these 2 chapters, only 31 are devoted actually to the events of the second coming. The other 66 verses concern the topic of judgment. Whatever else is true about the second coming, judgment is a primary theme in teachings on the second coming.
THE DIFFERENT TEACHINGS ABOUT JUDGMENT
Before looking at the major passage on judgment at the time of the second coming (Matt. 25:31-46), I want to focus on the various other passages about judgment in Jesus' sermon on the second coming.
First, if you are not living for Jesus the second coming will happen at a time you won't expect; therefore, you would be wise to be prepared at all times for His return. In one parable Jesus gives us, the slave thinks that his master is going to be gone a long time, when all of a sudden out of the blue the master shows up and catches the slave unprepared. The slave is severely punished for not being prepared for his master's return (Matt. 24:45-51). In the second parable (of the ten virgins) the master doesn't come as soon as some of them think He will. As a result because He delays, they are not prepared for Him when He does show up. So whether Jesus comes sooner than expected or later than expected, the main point is the same: BE READY!
The third parable deals with the master who entrusted certain of his possessions to his slaves: 5 talents to one, 2 to a second, and 1 talent to the third slave. The first slave takes his 5 talents and makes a profit of 5 talents, totaling 10 talents. The second slave likewise doubles the 2 talents given him for a total of 4 talents. The third slave though refused to use his talent but instead hid it in the ground. When the master returned so that the 3 slaves could account for the way they used the talents, he praises the first 2: "Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things." When the 3 slave hands back just the 1 talent, the master is furious: "You wicked, lazy slave. . . . Take away the talent from him and give it to the one who has the 10 talents. . . . Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:30). In other words, judgment hinges upon the way you have used the talents God has entrusted to you.
THE frightening PARABLE OF THE SHEEP AND GOATS (Matt. 25:31-46)
In this passage we come to the climax of Jesus' teachings on judgment at the time of the second coming. On the day of judgment Jesus will divide all mankind into 2 camps: the sheep and the goats. The sheep will be placed at the right hand of Jesus, the seat of favor, while the goats will be placed at Jesus' left hand, the seat of disgrace. To the sheep Jesus says: "Come you who are blessed of My Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Later to the goats He will say: "Depart from Me accursed ones into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels." Being a sheep is not simply better than being a goat. Sheep inherit eternal life; goats, eternal death. I want to be a sheep on that day.
What makes one a sheep, one who inherits the kingdom of God? Jesus says that the sheep were the ones who fed Him when He was hungry and gave Him something to drink when He was thirsty, that the sheep housed Him when He was shelterless, clothed Him when He was naked, visited Him when He was sick, and came to Him when He was in prison. When the sheep ask Jesus when they supposedly did all these things, He replies that whenever they did it to one of His brothers (fellow-Christians), especially the least of them (the poor Christians), they did it unto Him.
Then He turns to the goats and explains to them why they are being sent into hell. They didn't feed Him when He was hungry nor give Him anything to drink when He was thirsty. Moreover, they did not house Him when He was a stranger, clothe Him when naked, visit Him when He was sick or in prison. When the goats ask Him when they supposedly did NOT do those things, He replies: "To the extent you did not do it to the least of these (fellow poor Christian brothers), you did not do it to Me."
Before we start throwing "salvation by grace through faith" against this teaching, note first of all that this parable teaches that our ultimate future depends upon our treatment of Jesus. Paul, the main teacher of salvation by grace, also makes salvation a matter of a positive relationship to Christ. The bottom line is this: if I don't treat Christ well here on earth, what makes me think I am going to be with Him forever in heaven?
You may well ask: "But how does treating the Christian poor reveal the way I treat Christ here on earth?" The truth is that the way I treat the Christian poor IS the way I treat Christ here on earth. Whenever a person becomes a Christian, the Spirit of Jesus comes to live within him. At that point Christ says that He and the believer are one. [Paul says that Christians are so one with Christ that if a Christian has sex with a prostitute, he has actually brought Christ Himself into that illicit encounter (1 Cor. 6:15). Now THAT is being one with Christ.] The result is that the way I treat the believer who is one with Christ is the way I treat Christ. I didn't say this; Jesus did. If I neglect the Christian poor, then I have neglected Christ. I don't think I want to meet Christ in heaven if I have neglected Him here on earth.
"But," again you may ask, "why does my treatment of the Christian POOR reveal the way I treat Christ? If I treat wealthy Christians well, isn't that the same thing as treating Christ well?" Not really. When it is all said and done, why would I treat the Christian rich well but not the Christian poor? Could it be that the Christian rich can help me, that I can get something out of it whenever I treat the Christian rich well? If that is the case, then I am not treating the Christian rich well because I love Christ but because I can get something out of them. The only way I can guarantee that I am doing this for Christ's sake is that I do it for the Christian POOR, for somebody who can do nothing FOR me.
"But," you may ask, "aren't you creating a country-club mentality whenever you concentrate on the CHRISTIAN poor?" Well, if we are, then it's Jesus' fault because HE IS THE ONE commanded us to concentrate on the Christian poor. "But," you may ask again, "shouldn't we reach the poor non-Christian by focusing on him rather than the Christian poor? Shouldn't we care about winning the lost?" Trust me, if you concentrate almost exclusively on the lost as this implies, you will not reach them. Why?
JUDGMENT WILL BE ROUGH FOR SOME CHRISTIANS (1 Cor. 3:10-15)
Unfortunately in the last half of the 20th century many Christians started claiming that the only judgment Christians would undergo would be positive judgment. They appealed to a certain translation of John 3:16-21 to support their claims (again they could base this only upon a certain translation of these verses and not actually upon what these verses are saying). The result is that we have seen a serious decline in morals not only in the non-Christian world but also in the Christian world. Paul though paints a quite different picture. For many Christians judgment IS going to be a positive time, but for many Christians it will be very negative.
According to Paul all Christians have one thing in common: the fact that Jesus Christ is our foundation. If that is not true, then that person is not a Christian no matter what else is true about that person. Once that foundation is laid though, the Christian is going to build a superstructure upon it. How does he build that structure upon that foundation? By the life he lives. If he lives for Jesus, he will build a structure made of gold, silver, and precious stones. If he does not live for Jesus, then he will build a structure of wood, hay, and stubble. Those are the 2 choices and those are the 2 types of building materials he can use. No other choices and no other building materials.
On judgment day, according to Paul, God will apply the test of fire to each of the structures we have built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. If we have built a structure of gold, silver, and precious stones, then that structure will survive the test of fire. If we have built upon it a structure of wood, hay, and stubble, then it will go up in flames. The foundation won't be destroyed. It will survive; however, the building has gone up in smoke. According to Paul, that person is still saved but yet so as through fire. In other words, the day of judgment will not be a pleasant experience for that Christian.
Please keep in mind the following:
I remember the time when my dad disciplined me and got it right in the process. My parents had some friends over for an evening. I was 8 at the time. I was playing with the friends' children. We were playing chase. I chased one of the kids into the living room where the adults were. My dad stopped me and told me not to do it again. Well, guess what? I ended up chasing that kid back into the living room. My dad then took me aside and informed me that if I did it again, he would spank me after the friends had left. Well, you know what happened. I was chasing the kid; he ran into the living room, and I followed him. As soon as I got into the middle of the living room, I froze. I turned around and went into the kitchen crying. My dad followed me and informed me that I would get a spanking after the friends left. I was miserable until they left; then I got really miserable. My dad took me to the back bed room and spanked me. I remember holding onto my dad while he did.
Was that a horrible experience? Yes. But what was neat was what happened afterwards. Even though it was late, my dad had to go into town to his office. He asked me if I wanted to go. I loved my dad and told him, "Yes." I don't remember a lot about that trip to the office, but I do remember 2 things: he was kind to me and all over I felt the warmth of love. To me that is the truest picture of judgment for many Christians--although it might be rough for them, it will be wonderful on the other side. Paul puts it this way: "They will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:15). My only advice is that we make judgment as positive as possible. And we can, if we live lives of loving obedience towards our Lord Jesus and our heavenly Father.